Emma and Mark
Names and jobs:
Mark, management consultant; Emma, runs a small marketing agency.
Louis, 16 months.
Emma took 5 months of maternity leave, then returned to work part-time. Mark took 2 weeks of standard paternity leave, returned to work for a couple of months, then took 30 weeks of Shared Parental Leave. So Mark’s SPL overlapped with Emma for 3 months.
Pay during leave:
Mark received an enhanced pay package. Emma received statutory maternity pay for the period up to the point that Mark started his SPL.
Emma was able to return to work part-time up to 4 days/week, having the control in jointly running her business about her hours and travel patterns. Mark was able to use up to 20 paid Shared Parental Leave in touch days (‘SPLIT’) before his return to work to stay connected to the company and clients. He then returned to work full-time after his SPL, and was able to manage his expectations on his return to business life. The couple have a nanny to help with childcare.
Mark says sharing the leave has given the couple the opportunity to “really share the care, and the challenges of having a baby, together, and for both of us to understand, I guess, how difficult and tiring it can be.”
And for her part, Emma stresses that although running her own business means she has more control to look after Louis around the child-care arrangements, she can completely trust Mark to take over if, for example, she needs to be away on a work trip. “I had to go away last week for the first time, but I knew that Mark would be absolutely fine. And I think a lot of women get into this cycle of like, oh my husband can’t possibly do bath time, how can he do that? And, how will he cope…which is ridiculous, but it seems to still persist, doesn’t it?”
Mark feels that taking the leave has also helped him become more flexible as a team manager. “I think, if you’re running a mixed team, which you should be, you certainly understand, now, those different priorities. In the same way that I have no problem leaving work at five o’clock if I need to get home because Emma’s working in the evening, I now understand, very much, when people say they’ve got to pick a child up from the school gate. I am probably less traditional in my thinking than I might have been beforehand.”
And while very aware of how unusual (and lucky) they are in having had the option of Mark taking such a long period of leave at full pay, the couple would suggest that all expectant parents consider sharing leave if the option is open to them – even if only for a few weeks.
“My advice would be to take the time to really work it through. You have a right to find out as much information about it as your company can provide,” says Mark. “There isn’t a one size fits all… but take the time to properly sit down and go, what do we want to do for that first year, what are our priorities, what’s important to each of us individually and as a family?”
Emma agrees: “Most dads only get the two weeks, don’t they, and that just feels very short, so you could just have a couple of months, and that would also put you on the front foot. So it’s not like a binary thing, you do it or you don’t do it.”